Quarterback Review 2013

When we last left our executive hero Joe Banner, he was sweetly nestling his misunderstood love, Mike Lombardi, while the Mongol-esque hordes of Browns’ fans and media tried to burn down Berea with negativity. A couple weeks later, Banner has again emerged from his Ivory Tower – this time with a declaration of sorts.

PD – Banner Says Weeden Will Start, Be Pushed

Banner told WKNR that Weeden will get the first-team reps (the first minicamp is April 16-18) and that “open competition” is too strong. “But we’re going to go through minicamps and training camp and by the time we get to the first game, our goal is to play whoever the best players are. So (Campbell) will certainly get a chance to compete.”

Did I type “declaration?” I must have meant “aimless generality.”

Or, is it 2009 2007 2005 2003 2002 all over again?

It must be Spring if we’re talking about the latest in a line of completely irrelevant QB competitions in Cleveland. Been there, done that – but then again, if we approach it from a purely historical perspective, I suggest that Weeden compete with not only Jason Campbell and Colt McCoy (UPDATE: So long for now, Colt), but also Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson and any other marginal quarterback dredge of the past decade plus. Let’s just call it a Battle Royale to the figurative death, a.k.a., another 5-11 finish.

On a personal note, this idea won me a rather prestigious award from Frowns.

Anyway, a battle between Weeden and Campbell will no doubt stoke the fires of oblivion here, but should ultimately prove to be as meaningless as Quinn/Anderson, Frye/Dilfer, et all. Of course, there is some hope that even a modest coaching upgrade – which anyone following the archaic Pat Shurmur should provide – will at least propel a wobbly Weeden into the realm of passable NFL starters.

If not, and if the shaky proposition of relying on either Weeden or Campbell – both older quarterbacks known for sailing passes into next week – doesn’t work out, then the question becomes:

What next?

If it’s Spring, that means the Browns’ (next) next Quarterback is lurking somewhere in April’s draft. It’s just that easy, until some nagging reminders re-emerge:

1. The Browns aren’t great at drafting Quarterbacks.
2. CORRECTION – The Browns are quite adept and experienced at literally selecting Quarterbacks.
3. Still, the Browns have been seeking a Quarterback since the days of Todd Philcox.
4. According to everybody who is somebody, this isn’t the best year to draft a quarterback.

You can find a similar narrative all over, but this summary from Walter Football expresses this last idea.

The 2012 class was a banner year for quarterbacks. It looked great a year ago and lived up to the billing after the class’ first season in the NFL. So this comparison features a class with an A grade versus a class with a D grade. Thus, it is rather ugly for the 2013 group.

If you were to take Geno Smith and include him in last year’s class, I would place him behind Tannehill and above Weeden. Smith is pretty comparable as a prospect to Tannehill.

A “banner year” indeed.

Of course, it would be extraordinarily difficult for any class of QB’s to follow Luck, Griffin, Wilson and (thinking of the other 2012 rookie QB’s)…oh right, and Kirk Cousins. This would suggest that perhaps the 2013 crop of QB’s is being cast in the unfair light of last year’s wonder class.

I posed this question to Aaron Aloysius of the outstanding DraftBreakdown.com.

Unfortunately, there’s no “sure thing” at the top of this quarterback class. Even more so than in other years, the ’13 signal callers’ success will be highly dependent on where they land.

For example, if you put Ryan Nassib in Chud’s vertical offense or Mike Glennon behind Arizona’s porous o-line, you’ll likely end up with some very unpretty football. However, in the right situation, each has the potential to be a successful starting QB.

To me, Geno Smith is the best of the bunch and accordingly will go higher than he would in another class. I expect him to come off the board before the Browns pick, so the team will have to explore other options, perhaps in the 3rd Round or later. Ironically, this is the kind of draft in which you’d want to put Mike Holmgren to work looking for the right mid-rounder.

Last year, Michael Lombardi was highly critical of how the Seahawks addressed the position, but I could see the Browns doing something similar: add both a free agent and a non-first round rookie to the fold, then see who emerges.

The likelihood of finding another Russell Wilson is rather slim, but a mobile gunslinger like Zac Dysert would be an intriguing addition. After his underwhelming Senior Bowl week, you could get him at a major discount.

As for the “sure things”, you may recall that even at this time last year, Griffin didn’t exactly carry such a designation. As for Weeden, the book on him was written by the closest thing we probably have to a QB expert, NFL Films’ Greg Cosell. Of course, the appeal of Cosell is that he doesn’t market himself with such a title. He’s just a very rational and observant student of game film.

(I know some of you were expecting Jon Gruden. Sorry.)

Take some time with this article. It’s both a common sense approach to scouting quarterbacks, along with being a reference for those who don’t subscribe to such an idea.

Cosell’s Take – The Quarterback Paradigm

First and foremost, a quarterback must be able throw with accuracy — or, as I’ve always believed to be the more descriptive term, precise ball location. If you can’t do that, you have no chance to be a quality NFL quarterback. You can see that on film. It’s measurable.

You must be able to stand and deliver in a muddied pocket. That’s an absolutely necessary attribute. That’s why size is a trait, although it’s never talked about that way. Taller, stronger quarterbacks can respond to the pocket closing down far better than shorter, lighter quarterbacks.

All I know is this: in just every NFL game, there are throws that demand a strong arm. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a quarterback not pull the trigger on throws that are there because he knows he can’t make them, or he’s just not comfortable turning it loose.

If you’re not a power thrower, then you must compensate with great timing and anticipation, and you must be precisely accurate (as already discussed). Those attributes are magnified for those with lesser arms.

Another trait that is unmistakably measurable is decision-making. Watch enough film, and you’ll understand route combinations and reading progressions based on the alignment of receivers, and the defensive coverage. You’ll know where the ball should go within the precise timing of the play’s design.

Naturally, the instinct is to try to find all of these attributes in one quarterback – something that is virtually impossible. When it happens, it becomes easy for the team to tailor an offense around such a player. In some respects, Luck is probably the closest to today’s NFL prototype QB; however, it will probably be years before another player of his caliber and readiness is available in the draft.

Until then, the Browns will do what they have always done – which is try to fit a scheme to a quarterback, and/or take the opposite approach of what most successful teams do. As Aloysius pointed out, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib could be this draft’s most accurate passer – something that Cosell and essentially all football people cite as the most important QB attribute to possess.

Regarding Nassib, here’s this from Cosell.

NFL.com – Cosell Says Nassib is Best QB in 2013 Class

Of course, the Browns no longer run the kind of offense that Nassib is probably best suited for. Of course, regretting the departure of Pat Shurmur’s West Coast system is a grand abuse of energy. However, in trying to establish a link between a potential QB and the Browns’ latest offensive system, the projections again get skewed.

Certainly, there are some “strong-armed” QB’s in this year’s draft – highlighted by Mike Glennon. But then again, the Browns already possess such a player in Weeden. In a bit of circular (anti) logic, it’s as if Weeden was just waiting for Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner’s pseudo-Air Coryell roots offense to arrive in Cleveland.

But as usual, there’s a catch – at least based on Cosell’s scouting report on Weeden from this time last year.

NFL.com – Cosell Talks the Other Quarterbacks of 2012

When Weeden has time and functional space to deliver the ball comfortably, he’s the purest and best pocket passer in this draft class.

He was particularly good on seam throws, and they’re not easy.

Of course, in the NFL, the ideal scenario of a comfortable, secure pocket does not happen quite as often as quarterbacks would like. You must be able to function effectively in the eye of the storm or you won’t play on Sundays. That’s where Weeden had some problems. The sample was small, given how well he was protected, but it was there nonetheless. When blitzed, Weeden struggled with both recognition and execution. Mentally, there were times he panicked, and physically, he did not exhibit the kind of subtle pocket movement that must be part of a pocket passer’s game in the NFL.

Sounds about right.

Granted, Weeden was handed a 1993 offense to work with, but if we roll the conversation back to those intangibles referenced earlier, we see that Weeden possesses the size, strength and arm strength, but falls short in the critical areas of accuracy, decision-making and handling pressure.

If you dig deeper through Cosell’s various analysis and/or if you watched any college football last year, you could probably arrive at the same assessment for a number of other quarterbacks – including Glennon, E.J. Manuel and Tyler Wilson. Or, the Browns could easily find themselves another version of Brandon Weeden in a few weeks – if only in a less polished form.

But again, the hope is that a new coaching staff and a slightly less draconian offensive system allows Weeden – or whoever – to progress as an NFL QB. Otherwise, the Browns are left with yet another poor matchup of system to quarterback – featuring a player who doesn’t possess most of the intangibles that make for successful NFL starters.

And that can only mean that the Browns will again have to reach into the draft to pull out the next in a long, long line of starting QB’s.

Coming Soon: We’ll start to take a closer look at this year’s QB class and figure out if they are as bad as some say.

In the meantime, do what you normally do.

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Comments (11)

  1. Gary Collins

    The good news is that no one is worried about Lombardi trading the #6 overall for NE’s backup qb any more.

  2. MadElf

    Yet another extremely logical article that makes me want to drive my car into a bridge abutment. Obligatory Nice Read…sniff.

  3. rabiddawg

    So long Senor McCoy! I wish I could say this will implicitly make Cleveland.com more tolerable, but lets be honest with ourselves… That being said, to follow up on your question DK (from the other day in response to my post), I would not say that bottom-feeding teams can’t utilize semi-useful quarterbacks a la Campbell. But, where is the need and where is the money going? (An important caveat: I do not think Banner plays the “zero-sum” game, meaning if 1.5M a year is going to Campbell, then the purse strings get a whole lot tighter elsewhere; he will pay for talent).

    I am not going to argue about Colt vs. Campbell, nor will I make any other individual comparison between QBs because people get way too caught up in meaningless scenarios when you start diving into individual players’ strengths and flaws. (although the above is a WONDERFUL piece in all honesty, you are one of the few who deserve to be heard). The problem I have with throwing money at Campbell is that its not something for the future here. If you were to get a younger QB, or even keep Colt (again, I’m not going into specific players here, just an example), you could make the statement that its “development” time. Instead, we are watching Holmgren 2.0 in my opinion. I do NOT want a Seneca/Campbell on my team to ‘mentor’. We have Norv, right? He’s the guy for development right? So, bring em in! Campbell, not getting into his individual qualities, isn’t being brought in to be the future, despite a QB “guru” being in house.

    My battle cry so far this offseason is, “haven’t we seen this before?” And I know everyone is tired of hearing it. But didn’t we not get young enough soon enough under Holmgren? During his third, and last, year, Holmgren/Heckert got this team at its youngest, while losses mounted. Have we learned nothing? Do we not trust our new hires to make the right talent evaluation that we have to go get another 30 year old to pair with our 30 year old? And fine, age may not be the only aspect to focus on, but is Campbell a known quantity? Yes? Then move on. I just wish there was more urgency to try and get solidified. Campbell, like any other two year “stint” for these veterans, does not spell anything other than “band-aid”. Campbell can tide us over, just as well as many I guess, but why bring him in? I still don’t understand. I look at a trade like the one for Flynn, for future late-rounders. We don’t need to model the same trade for ourselves (couple of picks for a 28 year old), but are we just going through this all over again to dump Campbell in two years and try to get younger in our third year while the regime undergoes rising scrutiny? Ooops, I mean… Lombardi FTW.

    • I can see your argument regarding the veterans and youth movement, but I would contend that Campbell is a bit of an aberration in an offseason that has seen Watson, Young, Gocong, Rucker, S. Brown and other veterans let go and/or not resigned. While we all focus on players (as we should – we’re fans), I think the underlying issue is that the long-term financial health of the team is being addressed. While Heckert handed out some marginal free agent contracts, they were still eating up some cap for marginal production (Rucker, Young, Gocong, Fujita, etc.) while the returns were decent but not exactly worth their final (and biggest) salary years.

      I think Campbell is a bit of an anamoly given that QB is the Browns’ eternal weakness. I think the move signals a couple essential ideas. First, the FO and Coaching Staff is not fully comfortable with Weeden (nor should they be), yet this is one of the worst years for QB in the draft and Free Agency in a long time. Teams are so protective of their QB’s because of how the league has shifted. Until the Browns can figure a franchise QB out, they are left with the likes of Weeden and Campbell – two players who won’t burn the team down, but hopefully are just the bridge to something better. Unfortunately, unless the Browns get lucky with a mid to late round draft steal, it’s not going to happen for a while. In that sense, Campbell was the best available option.

  4. Rodofdisaster

    DK-

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Texas alumnus and, yes, a Colt McCoy fan. That said (and Frowns can back me up on this) I have always separated my love for the collegiate Colt from the analysis of “can he play in the NFL”. That said, I would offer to you that two thoughts come to mind on the departure of Colt from Cleveland:

    1) One could argue that he didn’t get enough of a chance to compete. That argument isn’t really one I am interested in having. If Colt McCoy has any potential as an NFL QB then Harbaugh and Roman are the guys to get it out of him. I think it was too soon to bail on him for all of the reasons stated but that’s life in the NFL. I won’t argue that the year under Shumur was any good but at least with Daboll he had some modicum of success against good teams. I’ve never gotten over the fact that Shurmur never played to his strengths and never let him audible. I saw the kid take an absolute beating in person against the Texans and the hate that you find in the McCoy haters is simply distasteful when I think of it in that light.

    2) It’s absolutely the right move. First off, there are more than a few people who think Weeden isn’t “the guy”. If that’s the case then you need to have someone that’s a little more capable behind him to come in and mop up the season if he completely s**ts the bed. McCoy isn’t that guy. Campbell has a bigger arm and fits more of what Norv Turner wants in a QB. Makes no sense to have two QBs with the same amount of question marks. Campbell is a known commodity. He’s smart. He’s played in several different offenses. He’s a bigger guy. He’s got a bigger arm. The biggest problem with Weeden (to me) is that he was handed the job. This competition is what you should have had last year.

    I wrote a long entry about quarterbacking in the WCO and while it’s not relevant to Norv Turner’s style of offense, the general idea of what to look for in a QB still holds. You can find it here: http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/2011/12/xs-and-os-with-the-bros-quarterback-play-in-the-west-coast-offense/

    Unfortunately, I said this in 2009 and was blasted for it but telling the difference between the QBs (then Anderson and Quinn…but insert any two in the last 13 years) is like trying to tell the difference between two equal size jars full of jelly beans. If one has 1001 and the other 999, how would you know? In the end, we are trying to discern a difference where there is none. They were/are both awful.

    Just my .02

    • I agree that McCoy was handcuffed under Shurmur – as was every other offensive player. It’s remarkable to watch those 2010 games when McCoy could improvise a bit and make plays. Simply put, Shurmur’s WCO was a mess and I don’t think there is a QB alive who would have succeeded. Completely agreed about McCoy being fed to the lions against the Texans….and Steelers and Ravens and….. McCoy wasn’t given the ideal chance, but unfortunately, that’s the brutal reality of the NFL.

      Having said all that, I still saw McCoy as being the kind of QB who was not physical enough to survive the NFL – unless an offense was exclusively built for him. However, I said the exact same thing when Jeff Garcia played here in 2004. The Browns could have had something special if the offense was built for Garcia and not vice versa. As I referenced the other day, it seems like QB research and scouting is pointless if the drafting team (like the Browns) aren’t willing to cater their offense to the QB. Much in the way that it would have been a waste to trade for RG3 only to have him play in Shurmur’s offense, I think McCoy was a victim of terrible coaching and the usual Browns’ muddled FO and ownership.

      Personally, I don’t feel one way or the other for McCoy. I’m always suspicious of people who consistently sound cliched and sterile in their answers, which McCoy did. He seemed a bit phony to me – but that’s probably because I’m a cynical person regarding athletes. However, he definitely showed a ton of effort and is a talented player – despite his size, which I still think is a factor.

      Anyway, I really hope he sees some success in SF and you’re right that Roman and Harbaugh could be the coaches to bring him out. If there’s such a thing as NFL justice, McCoy deserves a SF run.

      • Rodofdisaster

        Oddly enough, I don’t feel one way or the other either.

        I saw Glennon play live once. He’s really tall but also a bit unimpressive to me. As for the others not named “Geno Smith”, I can’t really get too excited about any of them.

        It’s probably just as well as you will likely see Weeden get another chance this year and another QB will get drafted in 2014 if that’s not good enough. I tend to think of Jason Campbell as underrated but he’s not going to set the world on fire.

        • I had completely forgotten that I covered a UC game in which Glennon played. That either speaks to my ignorance or Glennon being underwhelming. I’ve read and heard everything from he’s the next Drew Bledsoe to he’s the next Derek Anderson. Who knows?

          It seems that this is the time of the year when all the narratives are being written. Geno Smith got trashed yesterday and Nassib is the new riser. I’ve seen a little of Nassib (not live) and it seems that he is a fairly accurate passer. However, I also get the feel that his offense was well-coached and a lot of the passes were manageable. This was great for Syracuse but maybe not so good for whichever team drafts him. Similarly, I think Smith benefited from having some great talent around him – and playing against those Big 12 (or whatever that conference is now) defenses always helps.

          This may be a local homer pick, but I thought Zac Dysert was a really good college player. Although I could easily see another Charlie Frye if he starts in the NFL.

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